Friday, September 12, 2008

Indian Moral Code

Many self-appointed groups in India are now defending what is called Indian Moral Code. Well, we know about Legal Code and Penal Code, but what is this Moral Code?

India’s idea of democracy is interpreted as the rule of majority where majority can impose its ideas, notions, dress, language, and habits onto others. If these others do not acquiesce, then it is forced down their throats. They get things done by popular movements. They can send millions of SMS to get their favorite cricketer acquitted.

They also feel obligated to come up with a set of rules, traditions, and habits which are considered morally superior and they give it a name called Indian Moral Code. This Moral Code derives legitimacy from all sections of the society because it promises to protect Indian Culture, dignity, morality and sacred traditions. It gets legitimacy from patriotic and religious groups at the same time. The way a State imposes its Legal Code and Penal Code onto Indian citizens, these upholders of Indian Moral Code impose their morality onto everyone.

When Sexy Shriya donned a revealing dress for an evening outing, some Tamilian organizations believed it was against the sacred and honorable Tamilian traditions. When Khushboo and Sushmita Sen talked about women’s sexuality, marriage and virginity, the upholders of Indian Moral Code rose up to challenge them.

In small towns of India, this is even bigger problem. Most girls get their freedoms restricted by their own families, and where necessary the mohallah people, who are out there to defend Indian Moral Code from getting sullied. When I attended a well-known engineering institute in India in 90s, girls were restricted from mixing with boys. Some professors took up this task to punish the girls who were seen talking to boys by deliberately failing them or giving them low marks. All this they did with great concern and care for upholding Indian Moral Code which is more sacrosanct than the marks these girls received.

In many Indian towns, couples are targeted by youth, social outfits and sometimes the police force, for seen together. The fact that they held hands or were seen hugging is good enough for these people to act.

In a rare show of solidarity, which happens in India only when it comes to imposing idiotic notions, both Hindu and Christian organizations in South India cracked down on people who were seen as ‘violating the moral code’.

According to THE HINDU, there have been many such cases where some groups resorted to ‘punishing individuals’ who ‘violated the moral code’. Hindu outfit Bajrang Dal, and a Christian outfit, Social Action Committee, and some members from Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD) took it upon themselves to defend the unwritten Indian Moral Code. To do this, these groups targeted young men and women who were seen together, especially if they came from different religions. THE HINDU writes [emphasis mine]:

In one case, a young woman was attacked because she went to the house of a young woman from a different community. The Bajrang Dal has claimed responsibility for seven of these incidents.

The district head of the organisation, Sudarshan Moodabidri, claimed that the outfit had “solved” over 200 cases in the last two months where Hindus were “caught” committing the “immoral” act of interacting with members of other communities.

Mr. Moodabidri said, “Sometimes it becomes necessary to use force. Fear of such action should deter such misadventures. Girls reform themselves once they are thrashed and humiliated in public, but boys are tougher to control.”

These groups even carried out a ‘joint operation’ in one case proving idiocy is the most common binding factor for all these upholders of morality.

Moral Code in colleges

These days it’s fashionable for many colleges to proudly impose a dress code on its students. There are many colleges in India who don’t allow jeans and t-shirts for girls. The code prohibits them from wearing sleeveless and tight-fitting clothes as well. They strictly enforce wearing Indian salwar kameezes. The principal of such colleges proudly wear this ideology as a badge since he knows the kind of audience he is talking to. Parents gleefully admit their kids to such schools believing they are contributing to upholding of the Great Indian Moral Code.

"We are only trying to ensure that students dress decently and modestly, in a way that befits our culture. A dress code will also pre-empt harassment of women students," says Dr. Viswanathan, Vice-Chancellor of Anna University.


  1. Hi, I enjoyed reading many of what has been blogged and the responses (many of which I find skewed; as they are bound to be and indeed are). Thanks.

    What exactly did you wish to say when you have drawn attention to colleges (and perhaps even workplaces) having a dress code? Are you of the opinion that people should wear figure and skin exposing dresses? Irrespective of what your take is on this, if parents prefer to send their wards to institutions which claim some sort of discipline (as defined by them and found acceptable to those subscribing) are you suggesting that such of them should be forced out of their opinions??

  2. Srikanth:

    What exactly did you wish to say when you have drawn attention to colleges (and perhaps even workplaces) having a dress code? Are you of the opinion that people should wear figure and skin exposing dresses?

    I am not sure if wearing jeans and t-shirts is indecent – as most colleges seem to profess. I am not sure if sleeveless dresses are degrading women, as some of the moral police folks seem to think. I am of the opinion that there could be a norm for decent code of dressing, but looks like the bar for measuring decency is completely out of place with current social context. When the definition for obscenity in public place is vague and ambiguous it is best left unregulated. Most girls do wear jeans and t-shirts on the streets of India and it is quite common to treat them casual, not immodest.

    Irrespective of what your take is on this, if parents prefer to send their wards to institutions which claim some sort of discipline (as defined by them and found acceptable to those subscribing) are you suggesting that such of them should be forced out of their opinions??

    Parents in India seem to tell an adult what he or she should be wearing and though I find that funny I would still allow them what they want to do as long as those adults are accepting it. However, for a school to impose a restriction on certain dresses that are seen quite commonly in the ordinary social life in India, terming them anti-Indian, immoral, indecent, etc, is quite another thing.

  3. The happenings in Mangalore, is one that has come to the notice, or someone has shown the guts to report. Keeps me thinking, an elected government with no respect to protect the law of the country...Why do we need a govenrment if rowdies are to rule the land.!! The karanataka Govt can resign, who needs them !?

  4. In my own engineering college, we were not allowed to wear western outfits...well they didnt exactly disallow it, just that some "senior","strict" professors eyed you as criminals if you wore a jeans, and it was rumored that it reflected in your marksheet - so none of us took any chances. That was 2005. Now they say things have changed.

    Really, who decides these moral codes? and why? if someone dresses indecently, (s)he can do so in any kind of clothes and if someone is decent, (s)he would know the limits. If our constitution has given us voting privileges for ages above 18, surely the so-called adults would know how to dress.

    As far as mixing up of girls and boys together in school/colleges is concerned, its again an utterly ridiculous restriction - that too coming from a country on the verge of population explosion - truly paradoxical. I know of a well established co-ed school, or rather, semi co-ed school, which divides the classes into B and G sections 9th std onwards. I am at a complete loss of words to describe this absurdity - can you help me Sujai?

  5. May be mohalla people are preventing teen pregnancies like Bristol Palin and Jamie Lynn Spears!

  6. Hey Sujai,

    I have been a silent reader of your blog for quite some time now. I agree with almost all of your blog posts. Can I blogroll you?

  7. more like causing it........and aiding abortions......

    A quick visit to India and the mohalla doctor can deprive some teens in the US their much needed easily!

    mother of not-yet-teen :-)

  8. There is one question which needs to be answered by the so called 'adults' before wearing any dress that may suit their tastes just because they have got the right to vote: "Would they prefer their children (adults) to dress as they please when they are studying still?" If the answer is yes, there is nothing wrong in it. Maybe these adults can take the opinion of their parents as they are in the right position to judge.(If their parents object to a particular dress, or lack of it, would these 'adults' accept and change?) Why do we need society and civilization when everyone can do what ever they want to do? The majority opinion needs to be respected, sometimes.

    Destination Infinity


Dear Commenters:
Please identify yourself. At least use a pseudonym. Otherwise there will be too many *Anonymous*; making it confusing.

Do NOT write personal information or whereabouts about the author or other commenters. You are free to write about yourself. Please do not use abusive language. Do not indulge in personal attacks and insults.

Write comments which are relevant and make sense so that the debate remains healthy.